The mid-autumn festival is a traditional festival celebrated in Chinese culture. It is also celebrated with gazing at the moon, eating mooncakes and displaying lanterns.
However, a video showing a police officer stomping on lanterns on a field in Sibu, Sarawak, on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival (10 September) has gone viral on Facebook.
In the viral video, the officer wearing a Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) vest was seen stepping on a Kongming lantern, also known as sky lanterns, until the fire was extinguished.
The officer then approaches another man who was holding a Kongming lantern before stomping on it to put out the fire.
Following the incident, the Sibu Rural District Council (SRDC) advised the public not to release sky lanterns in the interest of aviation and fire safety.
SRDC chairman Sempurai Petrus Ngelai explains that these lanterns can pose a safety hazard if they land on buildings or other flammable substances such as dry grass.
“Sky lanterns can pose a fire hazard if they fall on the rooftop and can also pose a danger to aircraft if they fly along the route to the airport.”
“It is safer to carry a lantern instead,” he said.
At the same time, Kuching South mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng also advised the public to refrain from releasing Kongming lantern.
In 2003, thousands of sky lanterns were released in Penang during a Chinese New Year celebration, causing air traffic at the Penang International Airport to be disrupted. The incident has led to the police announcing an immediate ban on the Kongming lanterns.
Meanwhile, it is understood that those who were caught releasing Kongming lanterns can be charged under Section 285 of the Penal Code and Section 5 of the Explosives Act 1957, which carry a maximum sentence of six months and five years in jail, respectively.
Origins of Kongming lantern
Kongming lanterns is a small hot air balloon made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.
The lanterns are said to be invented by Politician and military commander Zhuge Liang, also known as Kongming, during the Three Kingdoms period.
While lanterns are symbols of hope and celebration in Chinese culture, Zhuge Liang modified the lanterns to make them float in the sky to carry messages that called for military reinforcement.
These days, people write their wishes on the surface of sky lanterns before releasing them into the sky with hopes that they would make their dreams come true.